Economy, Arab Spring, 2012 Election Were Year’s Top News Stories

20 percent of the time news was being covered, it was about the economy

It’s the economy, stupid.

The “faltering U.S. economy” was the most-covered story by the nation’s media this past year, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

It took up 20 percent of the newshole studied, which includes newspapers, online, television and radio news. That is a 40 percent increase over 2010.

How does the organization put the report together?

“PEJ’s The Year in News is derived from an analysis of close to 46,000 stories produced from January 1-December 11, 2011 that were examined as part of the group’s ongoing content analysis of 52 different traditional news outlets from the main five media sectors, its News Coverage Index. The report also includes an analysis of the year in social media, based on the group’s weekly analysis of blogs and Twitter, the New Media Index,” the report said.

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The year was also characterized by a substantial increase in coverage of international news, as the “Middle East Unrest” was the second most covered story at 12 percent.

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the death of Osama Bin Laden, the war in Afghanistan and the European economy were all in the top 10 as well.

Also notable was the sheer amount of major breaking news stories, prompting the PEJ to dub 2011 “The Year of the Mega Story.”

In five different weeks, one story took up more than 50 percent of the newshole, led by the killing of Osama Bin Laden in early May. That story registered a 69 percent between May 2 and 8, the biggest weekly story since January 2007.

On the American politics side, expect a heavy dose of 2012 election coverage – not that that comes as any surprise.

The 2012 election was already the third most-covered story of 2011, taking up 9 percent of the newshole. President Barack Obama was also the top newsmakers, and it was not even close.

Was there any difference in hwo the TV networks covered all this?

MSNBC spent more time on the economy than its counterparts at FOX and CNN while CNN spent more time on international coverage than the other networks.

There was not a ton of variation at the major networks, though CBS did devote more time to those two lead stories than ABC or NBC.